Metapopulation Structure of the
Northern Ontario Woodland Caribou

Woodland Caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou)
used to be prevalent throughout northern Ontario.
Over the years, key problems have arisen that affected the specific habitats of the caribou.
Over-development of the boreal forest and foothills have reduced the existing habitat, while increased predation by wolves and black bears along with poaching have all been factors in the decline of
the caribou population.

The Ministry of Natural Resources in partnership with the NRDPFC (Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Centre) have initiated a project to examine the genetic population structure of woodland caribou populations across Ontario. Woodland caribou have undergone a dramatic range reduction
north since 1900 and are currently listed as “threatened” by COSEWIC. They are continuing to decline in the boreal forest region of Ontario.
An examination of the meta-population structure of the northern Ontario population will allow for a more developed management program for the caribou. The determination of the meta-population structure of Woodland Caribou will enable MNR to apportion its conservation effort appropriately, that is, those
herds in imminent danger of extirpation can receive more effort than those that are secure.

A pilot project was developed for a non-invasive technique in targeting faecal samples for microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA analysis as a method of meta-population determination in both North-West and North-East Ontario. These samples will allow for the creation of a DNA library that can be used to evaluate historic and recent population fragmentation, effective population size, migration between different groups and the degree of isolation of relic populations. The library will also allow us to develop markers that can be used as a mark-recapture tool, to evaluate changes in population size and distribution.

For more information, please contact
Paul Wilson, or Brad White at the NRDPFC.

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